Under mounting legal and public pressure, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in an exclusive interview with NY1 that he will no longer consider his outside consultants so-called "agents of the city." He says going forward; he is going to take a different approach. Our Grace Rauh has the story.
Mayor de Blasio has strongly defended his close relationships with outside consultants, including people like Jonathan Rosen, who co-founded the communications firm, BerlinRosen. He offers the mayor advice and at times acts as a de facto member of his administration, all while representing clients with business before the city: real estate firms, unions and others.
"This has become a distraction," the mayor said Monday. "It shouldn't be a distraction. We've got much more important issues to work on. "
The arrangement has prompted fierce criticism from government watchdogs and accusations that de Blasio has allowed and encouraged a shadow government to crop up, filled with outside advisors with private agendas. NY1 and the New York Post sued the mayor in September over City Hall's refusal to turn over emails between the mayor and Rosen.
De Blasio and his lawyers have argued repeatedly that the counsel the mayor receives from five outside advisors is protected from public disclosure — despite the fact that any communication between someone in government, like the mayor, and someone outside government is in nearly all cases considered a public document. Now, he's changing course.
"Going forward the policy I will set in place is that for any of these individuals, the five of them, who offer advice on a government-related matter that will be discloseable going forward in the event of a FOIL request," the mayor said. "I think that's the smart way to handle it from this point on."
It is a remarkable change of direction from the mayor. But despite the new approach, de Blasio says he still intends to fight NY1's lawsuit.
"I believe we acted appropriately and we followed ground rules given by our own counsel and we stand by that," de Blasio said.
Prompted by the lawsuit, City Hall on Thanksgiving eve released 1,500 pages of emails between the mayor, top city officials and advisor, Jonathan Rosen. It is unclear how many more the mayor is sitting on.